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Executive Turntable: NAMM Foundation Losing Luehrsen; Norwegian Lines Up a Music Cruise Captain

Mr. Nimbus | 01/19/2024

It’s time for another quick whirl around the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across music.

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) launched a search for its next executive director of the NAMM Foundation, following a recent decision by longtime leader Mary Luehrsen to step down by Sept. 30. In addition to her director role at the foundation, Luehrsen is senior advisor for public policy at the music trade organization, which stages its 2024 event next week in Anaheim. The foundation’s key activities include school and career resource programs such as Careers In Music and GenNext, as well as Best Communities for Education, which gives props to schools for committing to music education. In her legendary and impactful 22-year run at NAMM, Luehrsen’s “visionary ideas and leadership have resulted in thousands of music educators, college students, community nonprofit music service leaders and international partners meeting, learning and networking at [the] NAMM Show,” the trade org said. She also expanded NAMM’s connection with other domestic and international music orgs and worked to shape public policy toward making music integral to education.

“Her passion, intellect, and relentlessly positive efforts have laid a strong foundation for our future success and we are so grateful she has lent us her talent, mentorship and creativity, all of which have joyfully impacted millions of next-generation music makers,” said NAMM CEO John Mlynczak.

Russell Reynolds is leading the search for Luehrsen’s replacement. All prospective candidates are invited to reach out directly to the Russell Reynolds Associates team at

Meanwhile …

Sixthman has a brand-new captain. Norwegian Cruise Line tapped Jeff Cuellar to succeed Anthony Diaz atop — or should we say aboard — its floating music festival subsidiary, which is coming off its “most successful year to date.” Cuellar’s been with Sixthman since October 2021, first as vp of partnerships and later vp of events, marketing and community — all during the backdrop of the boat-rocking COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to Sixthman, he was vp of strategic partnerships at festival promoter AC Entertainment, where he worked on Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Railbird and many more. As CEO, Cuellar will keep pushing for growth and work to solidify Sixthman’s place as the entertainment cruise king. Sixthman hosted over 45,000 guests over the course of 18 cruises in 2023, including the massive EDSea electronic music festival aboard the big ol’ Norwegian Joy. This year’s dock-et includes events hosted and/or curated by Kevin Smith, Yellowcard, Sister Hazel and Joe Bonamassa, among others. “In the short time Jeff has been at Sixthman, he’s made a significant impact,” said outgoing CEO Diaz, who is staying on as an advisor until June. “He played an integral role in the success of 2023, leading the strategy and outreach to strengthen and develop new artist relationships and debut first-for-the-brand festival concepts across all genres.”

Warner Chappell Music Germany promoted Natascha Augustin to managing director, reporting to WCM co-chair and CEO Guy Moot. The move means outgoing Germany MD Lars Karlsson will now be able to solely focus on his other gig, leading WCM Scandinavia. Augustin joined WCM in mid-2010 and was most recently vp of creative and head of A&R. She also helped launch Atlantic Records Germany, where she was head of strategy, but will now focus on WCMG. “I see myself as an advocate for songwriters and artists, fighting for their rights in a rapidly changing world full of new challenges,” she said. The company noted that Augustin will spend time in all three German hubs for WCM — Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. “Germany is such an important global market, and home to some of the world’s best writers, producers and artists,” added Moot. “We’re the number one domestic publisher there thanks to the support that Natascha has given a generation of songwriters under Lars’s expert guidance.”

Staying in Deutschland, BMG promoted Johannes von Schwarzkopf to senior vp of corporate development — marking a title fist-bump in a department he has led since its formation last year. Von Schwarzkopf joined BMG in 2021 as senior director of board projects and was promoted for the first time in 2023. In his vp-of-cd role, he’ll continue developing new business opportunities for the world’s fourth largest music company, and spearhead initiatives to accelerate growth in areas like partnerships and GenAI. He reports directly to BMG CEO Thomas Coesfeld and is based in the company’s Berlin headquarters. “Johannes has a proven track record of analytical rigor and thought leadership, and has played a pivotal role in developing and implementing our new strategy over the past year,” said Coesfeld. “His entrepreneurial mindset and commitment to the team make him a great leader.”

Black Music Action Coalition co-founder Binta Niambi Brown has joined Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP as entertainment partner in the legal and consulting firm’s NYC office. Brown has worked in a number of industries: as a corporate lawyer for top firms like Cravath Swaine & Moore and Kirkland & Ellis, as a member of Chance the Rapper’s management team at Nice Work, and more recently as head of operations and strategy at Keep Cool Records/RCA. She is also an adjunct professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch. At Manatt, Brown will work within the creator economy and advise global mogul-level clients on how to build, innovate, expand and protect their businesses and brands, the firm said. “Binta has a tremendous reputation as a corporate dealmaker, talent manager and artist advocate, making her incredibly invaluable to talent-side clients who are increasingly building their businesses and taking ownership of their personal brands in today’s exploding creator economy,” said Manatt entertainment leader Jordan Bromley.

David Barbis is the new head of promotion at Big Loud Rock, the label home of HARDY, Blame My Youth, Jaguar Twin and other alt-rock acts. Barbis will spearhead all promotional matters at the Los Angeles-based label and report up to BLR president Greg Thompson. He joined from C3 Management, where as vp of promotion he worked on campaigns for wide slate of artists, including White Reaper, The Head and the Heart, Modest Mouse and Chevelle, among others. Prior to C3, Barbis held roles at Polygram, Dreamworks and Capitol Records. “Dave is a true music man and one of the most outstanding promotion executives I have ever known,” Thompson said. “His passion for his artists is unparalleled, and we are beyond thrilled to have him join the Big Loud Rock team.” Barbis can be reached at

Primary Wave Music added Agnes Kacicki to its executive team as head of corporate development. Working closely with Primary Wave’s founder and CEO Larry Mestel, Kacicki will focus on big-fish catalog and business acquisitions, as well as forming portfolio-expanding partnerships on the international scale. Based in Los Angeles, Kacicki will also work closely with Bill Cisneros, president of IP investment management, and Ramon Villa, the company’s COO, to assist with investor relations. Kacicki comes from RBC Capital Markets, where she served as director in the investment banking division and specialized in advisory and capital raising activities across various entertainment sectors, including Primary Wave’s bailiwick: music publishing. “Agnes has been a close adviser to Primary Wave for many years in her senior role at RBC, she will make a very significant impact on our ability to increase our acquisition capabilities, and service our partners,” noted Mestel.

Sony Music UK hired Brooke Salisbury to fill the newly created position of senior vp of international marketing and digital partnerships. In the role, Salisbury will oversee the various teams working on cross-border marketing and partnership with digital services like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. She arrives at Sony from Warner Music’s ADA UK, where she was general manager of the distribution and label services division. Prior to ADA, Salisbury held senior roles at Domino, where she rose to head of marketing in the UK market and worked with rock favorites Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, among others. She reports up to Sony Music UK & Ireland chairman and CEO Jason Iley, who remarked of being “delighted to welcome Brooke to her new role where she will help bolster our service for both artists and digital partners.”

Global management company IMG Artists promoted Sam Snook to head of vocal, London. Snook has clocked 17 years in the classical musical industry, including positions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera and Opera America. He first joined IMG Artists in 2009, working closely with evp and global head of vocal Matthew A. Horner. “Sam’s move to London is a very positive development for IMG Artists,” Horner said. “With the complicated nature of our business, and the best artists needing true worldwide representation, I see this move by one of my most trusted colleagues as a fruitful venture for all of us in vocal.”

BOARD SHORTS: Music community startup We Are Giant added AEG Presents COO of global touring David Rappaport to its board of directors. He’ll lend his expertise on event execution, artist relations and more at the freshly launched plaform for hosting licensed listening parties, live streams, chats and more on its site and app … Hipgnosis Song Fund’s board of directors have a plan to attract bidders — and satisfy concerned shareholders. Learn all about it here.

Deluge Music founder David Robkin has launched two new record labels. Robkin worked with Johnny Gates and Austin Luther to ideate East Music Row Records — “with a goal of blending the hip, innovative sides of Nashville’s new indie rock and alt-country music with the musicianship, professionalism, and ingenuity of Music Row classists.” Robkin then took inspiration from Sun Records and Motown for Deluge Records Nashville, which is modeled in the tradition of a classic collaborative music incubator. “DRN wasn’t created to extract all the worth possible out of its artists, instead, the team chose to foster relationships between artist and label, creating a home in which equitable recording deals aren’t rarities,” the company said. DRN was born through a relationship between Robkin, songwriter Sam Grow, and Grow’s manager Brad Austin.

Breanne Hoke joined Joie Manda’s Encore Recordings as executive vp, head of business and legal affairs. Prior to Encore, she spent five years with Interscope’s business and legal affairs team, rising to vp in October 2021. She got her start in music as a legal fellow at the NMPA before joining Warner Records as an attorney-then-associate director in its B&LA department. Manda, a longtime executive at Interscope Geffen A&M, launched Encore Recordings in 2021 with a goal of “pushing culture forward.”

CAA promoted Jenna Powell to communications executive. She joined the agency in early 2018 as assistant to then-COO Michael Mand before rising through the communications ranks to her current position, which is based in Nashville and supports CAA’s music touring, digital media, theatre and gaming divisions.

Garrett Ream has joined Position Music as vp of artist strategy and promotion, a move announced by president and CEO Tyler Bacon. Ream previously served as vp of rhythm promotion at Republic Records, where he worked on radio and promo campaigns for a murderers’ row of stars including Taylor Swift, Drake, The Weeknd, Arianna Grande, Post Malone, Pop Smoke and Greta Van Fleet. Ream will report directly to J Scavo, general manager of recorded music at Position. “Garrett is a key hire for us as we continue to build our frontline artist roster and label marketing team,” said Bacon. “In addition to bringing major label promotion experience, he also has an indie drive and entrepreneurial approach to identifying and developing artists that is in lockstep with our company ethos.”

Ten2 Media appointed “avid technologist, hacker and maker” Mike Flynn as chief technology offcer of the upstart company, which works with clients on strategies and then distributes, markets and monetizes that video content on YouTube. Flynn was previously CTO of Studio71, where he spearheaded the development of numerous technology platforms during an 11-year tenure. “”Mike’s track record of success and his passion for leveraging technology to drive business growth align perfectly with our vision for the future of Ten2 Media,” glowed Ten2 Media co-founders Donna Budica and George Karalexis.

Music industry veteran Bob Reeves opened the private venture Excelsior Music, which will focus on management, artist development, radio/tour marketing and promotion. Reeves’ first client is Nashville-based country singer-songwriter Orlando Mendez. Mendez, a second-generation Cuban-American from South Florida, appeared on NBC’s The Voice in 2022, and is currently working on his debut project. Reeves previously held posts as vp and national director with Warner Music Nashville, Sony Music, Monument Records, Epic Records and most recently, Riser House Entertainment. –Jessica Nicholson

Tom Stingemore, who spearheaded Hipgnosis’ sync efforts until his departure over the summer, launched ALLOY Sync Distro as part of an ambitious effort to modernize the music biz’s sync licensing and approvals process. ALLOY is described as a “state-of-the-art, industry-wide platform that significantly streamlines the sync licensing process, while allowing labels & publishers to retain full control of their sync rights,” according the announcement. Stingemore, who has also previously held senior sync roles at UMG and BMG, said the licensing process has been “arduous, disjointed and fractured” for too long and is collaborating directly with industry stakeholders to develop a “gamechanging commercial solution for the entire music business.”


Phill Bauer was named president of DistroKid … Alvaro Rizo joined Carlos Vives’ Gaira Musica Local label as managing director … the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) hired former Mitt Romney staffer Chris Barkley (pictured) as its senior vice president of government affairs … YouTube laid off 100 in its content and creator teams … and Condé Nast gutted Pitchfork as part of a restructuring that folds the esteemed music criticism site under men’s style and fashion bible GQ.

Last Week’s Turntable: Resnik Makes It Raines

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus

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